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By Spencers Solicitors

  Stephanie Robinson    
  November 15, 2019

So I got stuck….what is my actual risk?

Whilst on holiday with my family earlier in the year my young son was happily playing in the sand. He turned to me and asked, "what's this mummy?" I looked across and was quite horrified to see that he had uncovered a syringe that had been carelessly discarded on the beach. Thankfully, the syringe hadn’t punctured his skin and we quickly removed it and disposed of it safely. My son as very lucky that day, but for many others, their story can be quite different.

Needlestick injuries can leave people facing some severe consequences - both physical and psychological. Anyone who is unfortunate enough to suffer a needlestick injury, is more than entitled to make a claim for compensation and they should not feel guilty in doing so.

The ramifications of a needlestick injury often go much further than the pain of the skin being punctured and can leave people affected experiencing problems that go way beyond the pain and suffering of the accident itself.

What is a Needlestick Injury?

Needle stick injuries take place when a sharp instrument, usually a medical instrument that incorporates a needle, accidentally punctures the skin. It has been estimated that in the UK, an estimated 100,000 needlestick injuries occur each year.

Who is most at risk of suffering a needlestick injury?

Most frequently this occurs in a medical setting. As a result, the most likely victims of needle stick injuries are members of the healthcare professions: - doctors, surgeons, nurses, porters and cleaners. However, there are other jobs and institutions where needle injuries happen, such as in Prisons, vets, tattooists, refuse collectors, dentist surgeries and council workers.

Other than a stab type wound, what other injuries can be caused by needlesticks?

Whilst not minimising the pain of being accidentally stabbed by the needle of a hypodermic syringe, the most worrying aspect of being injured in this way, stems from the very nature of syringes. They are used for injecting into human beings (or in the case of vets, into animals). The risk, therefore, is that in being accidentally pricked by a needle, particularly by a hollow bore needle, the victim of the accident may become infected by someone else’s bodily fluids that were still present on the needle. For healthcare workers, this can mean being at risk of Hepatitis B, C or HIV.

In most cases, the risk of developing Hepatitis or HIV is not very high, but the risk is still real. When someone suffers a needlestick injury they will need to undergo medical tests. The period whilst those tests are carried out and the results analysed can be between 3 and 6 months and during that period, the victim of the injury will understandably suffer a great deal of anxiety and stress which could lead to a psychological injury such as an adjustment disorder, needle phobia, psychological trauma and in some cases post-traumatic stress disorder.

Even if the medical test results prove negative, it is not uncommon for individuals to have continuing psychological problems, sometimes for several years after a negative test result.

Some examples of needle stick accidents that led to successful claims being made, include:

  • A goods vehicle who driver suffered an injury during the course of his employment, whilst in a transport yard when he was pricked in the leg by a discarded needle.
  • A young boy who was pricked in the thumb by a needle stick that had been left in a toy box at a nursing home.
  • A laundry worker who was injured by needlesticks on two separate occasions whilst sorting through dirty linen received from a hospital.
  • A female ambulance technician who suffered a needle stick injury through using a defective click pen which collapsed, causing her to prick her left index finger, whilst taking blood from a patient who had collapsed at his home.

If You Suffer a Needlestick Injury, Take it Seriously. There’s far more to a needlestick (or 'sharps' accident, as they are also known), than a minor needle stab wound. The very nature of what syringes are used for, means that if a used needlestick penetrates human skin by accident, there is a risk of infection leading to serious illnesses.

if you puncture your skin by accident with a used needle, the NHS website advises that you should:

  1. Hold the wound under running water and encourage it to bleed.
  2. Wash the wound with soap
  3. Don't scrub the wound whilst washing
  4. Don't suck the wound
  5. Dry the wound and cover with a dressing
  6. Get urgent medical advice

Making a Claim for Needlestick Injury Compensation

Needlestick injuries can be extremely unpleasant. Spencer's Solicitors Personal Injury team have previous experience of dealing with needlestick injury compensation claims and will ensure that you are seen by the right medical expert to assess your injuries, as well as to assess the psychological issues that you have had to deal with.

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